Clovis playing corner route

Wildcats head to Aztec for Week 2 matchup.


August 31, 2018

Kevin Wilson

Clovis senior Daniel Bowey, left, tries to fight his way through the tackle attempt of sophomore C.J. Gutierrez in Tuesday's Wildcat football practice. Clovis heads to Aztec Friday in what will be its longest road trip since the team's 1997 road game in Clovis, California.

CLOVIS — It wasn’t an ordinary Thursday for the Clovis High football team. Then again, this is no ordinary weekend for the Wildcats.

Thursday, instead of spending the late afternoon hours practicing at Leon Williams Stadium, the ’Cats were getting ready to board a bus in the Clovis High School parking lot. Because tonight, instead of the road trips to Albuquerque, Lubbock or Hobbs they’re used to, the Wildcats are playing at Aztec, in the state’s northwest corner more than six hours away.

Road trips are in the Wildcats’ DNA. But this one’s even longer than the trek they made to Rio Rancho in Week 3 last season. To tackle this weekend’s long trip, Clovis broke it up a bit, riding to Albuquerque Thursday night, staying in a hotel there, then finishing the journey today.

“It’s been a long time since even me as a coach has had an overnight stay and then played the next day,” Clovis head coach Cal Fullerton said Thursday at Clovis High School, minutes before getting on the bus. “I think it was, heck, back in either ’08 or ’07 when we went to Las Cruces, stayed the night on a Friday night in Alamogordo and played in a playoff game in Las Cruces against Mayfield.”

The plan for today was to eat breakfast in Albuquerque, have a walk-through, then “try to leave around noon-ish,” according to Fullerton. They were then planning to stop for lunch at Bloomfield before riding the rest of the way to Aztec.

“Then regular routine after that,” Fullerton said.

As regular as Fullerton hopes it goes for his players once they’re in Aztec, he isn’t sure how all the travel will affect them.

“You can’t really tell,” he said. “I’m sure it will, maybe a little bit. The kids haven’t stayed in a hotel away from home, without parents, with coaches before. I think our kids are mature enough to know how to act. ... But traveling that far across the state, you never know. It just might have a little bit of an effect, it might not. It might take us a little bit to get our feet underneath us, our legs underneath us, and then after a couple of snaps, hopefully we’ll be ready to go.”

“It is going to be a tiring trip,” Clovis senior offensive guard/defensive tackle Stephen Acosta said before beginning Thursday’s bus ride. “If we get enough rest and as long as we stay prepared for the game, I think it’s going to be a good game.”

“I think it’s going to be different,” sophomore free safety/running back Jeston Webskowski — who came up with one of the Wildcats’ three interceptions against Hobbs last week — said Thursday before the long trek began. “We have to be right mentally. It took a lot of preparing.”

Once they arrive in Aztec, however, it’s another game, an important Week 2 matchup.

Clovis and Aztec have a few very general things in common. Each team was 6-6 last season and reached the second round of their respective state playoff tournament — Clovis beat Atrisco Heritage in the first round before losing to eventual 6A state champ Manzano; Aztec posted a first-round 5A victory over Goddard before suffering a one-score loss to Roswell at the Wool Bowl.

Each team has begun this season 1-0. Each won that opening game last week on the road — Clovis toppled rival Hobbs 32-21, while Aztec traveled to Gallup and blasted Miyamura 49-20. And each team plays three of its first four games on the road.

Aztec seems to have a bit of an edge in varsity experience, starting under center. Though Chance Harris is 1-0 as a varsity quarterback, he’s a sophomore. Aztec’s six-foot quarterback Zach Taylor is a senior.

“Their key player I believe is the quarterback,” Acosta said. “As long as our defense is able to lock it down and our offense is able to keep rolling, I think we can end up winning the game.”

“As far as I’ve seen, they’re a decent team — their quarterback, and they have a good wide receiver,” Webskowski said. “They’ve got two studs.”

“I think they’re tough,” Fullerton said. “They’ve got a really good quarterback to lead their team. They’ve got some great receivers, a couple of good linemen, good linebackers. I know they’ve got a lot of kids that play both ways; they’re a smaller school. So hopefully we’ll have the advantage there, being able to tire ’em down a little bit.”

Aztec, in fact, is classified as 4A this season.

“(Against) a 4A school; we’re expected to win,” Fullerton said. “Our kids expect to win. So hopefully we’ll go up there and take care of business.”

That would be huge for the Wildcats, who are looking to enter next week’s home opener against Rio Rancho at 2-0.

“That’s a big thing,” Fullerton said. “Our pre-district schedule’s really tough, so it’s a must for us to start off the season 2-0.”

“I think it’s very important,” Acosta said, “especially going against Rio Rancho (next week), because our pre-district games are going to be even harder than last year.”


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